Terrorism: Future Imperfect
Sharique N Siddiquie
Youth is the backbone of any country. All major revolutions of the world have been brought about by youth only with its untamed aggression and determination to bring change. History of India cannot forget the contributions of patriots like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev, Rajguru etc., all in their 20s who sacrificed their lives for independence, while in 1942 the youth under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi compelled the imperialist British regime to retreat.
Post independence, the biggest movement against the establishment was JP movement of 1977 which played a vital role in the emergence of youth on the national political scene. And the latest example of the power of youth is the victory of Congress in Lok Sabha polls of 2009, where Rahul Gandhi’s leadership proved vital in consolidating youth in favour of the party.
But the disillusionment of the youth could prove disastrous for any country, as the political equations of the world have changed drastically in last couple of decades, giving rise to a menace called ‘terrorism’. Though this existed for long, all of a sudden it has become a monster. More so as it is fed very often by a sinister foreign hand.
India, one of the worst sufferers of terrorism, is also affected by this geopolitical change, but it has local reasons which compounded with global state of affairs make it only more lethal.
Naxalism is the informal name given to the activities of various Left wing Communist organizations that emerged during the uprising in West Bengal under the leadership of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal in 1967. The term ‘Naxal’ was given because the uprising started in the ‘Naxalbari’ village of West Bengal.
Naxals, who are also called ‘Maoists’ for following the ‘violent revolution’ theory of China’s Mao Zedong, are present in almost 40 percent of India geographical area. The area under the influence of Naxals is often called ‘Naxal belt’ or ‘Red Corridor’ comprising 92,000 square kilometers of area. Reports from intelligence agencies like RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) suggest that there are almost 20,000 Naxal insurgents currently operating in the country.
It is basically a fight of ‘haves’ with the ‘have nots’. The primary reason for the rise in Naxal movement is the pathetic condition of peasants and laborers in rural areas. It should be noted here that Naxalism exists in the most downtrodden areas of India.
The Left wing extremists are present in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. It is because of their wide presence and growing influence that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared them the most serious threat to national security.
‘Khalistan’ means the ‘land of pure’. It initially started due to a divide and rule policy of Indira Gandhi, but eventually turned into a violent movement for an independent Sikh state.
Indian Army started Operation Bluestar to flush out terrorists holed up at Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple), the holiest Sikh temple. Bhindrawale, a Sikh ideologist and propagator of Khalistan who was earlier handpicked by Indira Gandhi to storm the Akali bastion, was killed in the operation but several civilians also died as they were caught in the cross-fire. The firing on Darbar Sahib was an embarrassment for the Indian Army and left the Sikhs severely disgruntled.
The Sikh youth was disillusioned with the establishment and was utterly disappointed with the state of affairs. This feeling of discontent was used by certain leaders to instigate them towards militancy. The highhandedness of Indian security forces acted like the catalyst and soon the whole of Punjab was burning.
The retaliation didn’t take long to happen. Sikhs held Congress responsible for what was happening in the state and Indira Gandhi was perceived as the main culprit. On 31st October 1984, the then PM of India Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards resulting in anti-Sikh riots in northern India and massacre of thousands of Sikhs.
This added fuel to the fire and Sikh militancy continues through the 80s. However it was effectively tackled and virtually over by 1990s, due to strict action by Indian security forces under the then DGP of Punjab, KPS Gill. Today, Punjab is a peaceful and one of the most prosperous states of India. But voices of dissent rise periodically from overseas.
Secessionist movement in North-East
The north-eastern parts of India have been disturbed for long. The primary reason for the disturbance is the feeling of alienation of the people of north-east. Different physical attributes and a substantial geographical distance from the mainland adds to this feeling of alienation.
The poor economic condition of north-eastern states and lack of development adds to the agony. The youth feel neglected and alienated in their own country. This feeling of discontent led to the rise of militancy. The demand of Gorkhaland by GJM and a separate Assam by BODO and ULFA is the culmination of this unrest.
The policies of Indian government since independence have converted the north-east region into a hotbed of terrorism. The secessionist movement which gained momentum in 1990s is still continuing. The government has tried to curb the militants highhandedly, but it further complicated the matter. The implementation of AFSPA (Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act) has further led to the feeling of being wronged among the youth of north-east especially after some genuine cases of exploitation.
Besides China’s open support, Bangladesh based Islamic militants have also joined hand with the local extremists in the early 2000s making the situation even more problematic.
The disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir is the longest spate of insurgency in India. The trouble started immediately after independence when in 1948, Pakistan attacked J&K and captured a sizeable part of the state. Though India was able to win it back, but due to fatl mistake of Pandit Nehru it failed on diplomatic front and Pakistan captured areas remained with it separated by LoC.
The people of Kashmir seeking complete autonomy started their struggle which was supported by Pakistan as a part of its foreign policy. Lack of infrastructure and development in the area created dissatisfaction and disillusionment among youth of J&K who turned towards militancy. Lack of trust among other countrymen on Kashmiris further alienated them from the mainstream.
The first cases of Islamic militancy in India were only because of the problem of J&K, though it is not right to call it Islamic militancy as it was region specific and had nothing to do with religion.
The state is still affected by militancy but the situation has improved considerably in past 10 years. But it is essential for the government to take necessary steps for the development of the state. Creation of job opportunities, industrialization, infrastructure development and educational facilities are some of the ways to contain the disillusioned youth of J&K. Most importantly the support from Pakistan needs to be crushed and influx of radicals from across the border must stop. Only then, will we be able to restore peace in the ‘paradise on earth’.
There has been a rise in terror incidents in past few years in India. Though some would like to relate it to a global phenomenon and the rise of Osama Bin Laden, Indian terror is sponsored by Pakistan to a very large extent.
The militancy of J&K was responsible for initial terror strikes when militants from across the border attacked India with the help of local sympathizers. The attacks on Red Fort and Parliament are the few examples of such terror.
Besides demolition of the Babri mosque was cleverly used by Pakistan to rope in embittered locals and train them or use them as sleeping cells to support LeT, HuM, JeM etc. The first attack in the form of Bombay blasts in 1993 triggered a wave of serial blasts in other cities over the next decade and the phenomenon continues to this day. Communal divisions within the country and incidents like Gujarat riots only helped the enemy.
Moreover, the poor economic condition of the minority community, lack of education and government’s failure in speedy justice in the riot cases further complicated the situation, giving rise to the homegrown terror outfits like SIMI (Student’s Islamic Movement of India) and Indian Mujahideen. The misguided youth, who believed in a confused concept of Jihad, are used by some Pakistani ‘recruiters’ and they mistake violence for Jihad.
The most recent, daring and dastardly has been a commando style attack, now better known as 26/11, when Mumbai was held siege by 10 Pakistani terrorists. The icons of modern and free India were attacked showing the severity and graveness of the situation. It was a new form of tactics that Pakistan was adopting to destabilize India.
The challenge that faces the government is two dimensioned. First, it needs better equipment, defence mechanism and intelligence to prevent Pakistan from carrying out its nefarious designs. Second political parties should stop treating minorities as votebanks and take concrete steps for their uplift, so that their can earn independent and respectable livelihood. Also there should be more confidence building measures between minority and majority communities. Proper development, education, and infrastructure can go a long way in bringing the misguided minority youth to the mainstream. It remains to be seen how serious our government is.